Haredi woman in a 'burka' 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
City Councillor Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim) has been intimately involved with
the struggle for women’s rights in Jerusalem for years. It was her face that
Cnaan, the advertising company that runs Egged’s bus advertisements, refused to
put on their buses in the run-up to the city elections three years ago due to
fear that haredim would attack the buses that had pictures of women. Along with
other women’s rights activists, she has petitioned the High Court of Justice for
the past two years over gender separation on sidewalks in Mea She’arim during
Succot, a move that got her fired from the coalition this past fall.
following a series of events over the past few months – religious soldiers
walking out of a ceremony with a woman singing, Tanya Rosenblit being forced to
move to the back of the bus on a mehadrin Ashdod-Jerusalem line, the tears of
eight-year-old Beit Shemesh resident Naama Margolese, who is terrified to walk
to school because of haredi harassment – Azaria is no longer alone in her
struggle to stop discrimination against women in the haredi sphere.
rather than throw her hands up in frustration, Azaria and other feminist
activists expressed optimism at a round-table discussion on Tuesday night at the
Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. The prevailing sentiment was that the
recent impassioned public debate on the subject represented a positive step in
the struggle for women’s equality.
“[Recently], I felt there were times I
needed to pray ‘sheheheyanu
’ [the prayer of thanksgiving for new experiences]
because something is really changing,” Azaria said on Tuesday. “I feel we’re at
a point where we’re redesigning the rules of the game. The key words are
solidarity and responsibility, and I feel we’re going in the right direction.”